Who would have imagined…

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #89: Imaginary

The word this week is imaginary. Respond in which ever way the muse moves you. Looking forward to your responses.

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March 27, 2020

My life is surreal enough as it is right now. Fear is everywhere. The enemy…invisible.

Not just in my own little universe. Throughout the world…women, men and children are dipping their collective toes into unfamiliar murky waters. Trying to figure out this new “normal” as Stay Safe replaces Have Fun or Have a Nice Day.

Breaking News assaults us nightly. No escaping it if you want to stay informed.

This morning I went out to get gas for my car. Not that I am going too far, but a full tank of gas is one thing I can actually do. Alone.

Imagine my surprise when I glanced at the prices. WTH? I haven’t seen gas selling below $2/gallon in…forever it seems.

Although these days a month ago feels like forever.

Never in my wildest dreams (which aren’t all that wild, but you get my drift) would I have ever imagined panic buying of toilet paper. This morning I asked a neighbor if she needed anything at the store (yes, I had to run in and out for salad and bananas).

She thought a moment and then…”macaroni…and toilet paper?”

As if the second request would be a total miracle.

It turns out miracles do happen. Limit of one package per customer. My neighbor is rejoicing. I do what I can.

Now I have a full tank of cheap gas. In case I want to drive around the block. The governor just closed all state beaches, so I can’t drive to one of my favorite spots. Well, I could drive there, but I’m not allowed to walk the beach.

Apparently people were recently congregating too close together on the sand. Ruining it for those of us who would find some momentary peace and comfort walking six feet apart in the fresh air.

Imagine what would happen if I just went down there anyway.

Would I get arrested? I’ve never been arrested.

Imagine the report: Senior Citizen arrested for walking on the beach. Even though she was minding her own business and was six feet away from the nearest human.

Maybe worth it?

Nah…I think I’ll pass.

reflection 1
Hampton Beach, NH

These days my imagination continues to expand in epic proportions. Taking on a life of its own. Sometimes that’s not helpful…when it wakes me up at 3am.

This won’t last forever, I keep telling myself.

And then a sweet reminder…

How young children can cope in a world they don’t understand…

My daughter and my 3 ½ year old grandson took a walk yesterday. They live in Washington, DC. Their neighborhood…complete with sidewalks. Lined with trees.

She texted a photo and the story behind it…which she often does – and for which I am most grateful…

…On their walk my grandson carried a stick…

“a special sprayer he was using to spray the germs away….”

He also announced:

Mama, I will keep you safe from the germs. If you get covered in germs I will spray them all off of you. Then the germs will be all gone and we can go to parks, fields, schools, and go visit Grandma and Grampa.

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Imagine that. ❤️

 

Empty shelves

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #88: Domino Effect

The dominos are falling. Where is this all leading? What happens when the dust settles? Thoughts? Examples? Interpretations?

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First it was hand sanitizer and wipes. Then toilet paper. Next…paper towels. Then Kleenex. One after another. Disappearing from store shelves. Worried moms…dads…kids…everyone actually…buying what they can…just in case. The unknown is a scary place.

The fear is palpable. The carts full. We are all in uncharted territory. I must believe this will pass…in time. We will someday look back and learn.

Yesterday was likely my last visit to the grocery store for the foreseeable future.

This is what happened…

empty aisle


Do you remember when the Berlin Wall fell?

I was leaning back against the shelves on one side of the paper products aisle. Finishing up taking a few pictures with my phone.

A man – probably in his 50s – had stopped his shopping cart in front of me to talk. His voice was tinged with a faint accent. He wore a camouflage patterned sweatshirt and jeans. Short clipped dark hair. Slightly balding. Medium height. Stocky.

I was trying to document the (almost) entire aisle of empty shelves. Which are usually crammed with assorted packages of toilet paper, facial tissues and paper towels.

Shelves now empty as panicked customers buy out the inventory day after day – sometimes within an hour of being even partially restocked. The virus is coming.

Shoppers quite frequently start random conversations with me in the grocery store. More often than not.

But this seemed more off the beaten track than usual – immediately capturing my attention as I answered…

Um…yes, I do.

Well this reminds me of it.

It does?

It was like this in East Germany.

You mean people buying up supplies when it happened?

No, this is how it always was in East Germany then. Empty shelves. I saw it. That’s communism.

Did you live in East Germany?

No, but I was there when the wall came down.

Wow.

The two of us paused and looked over at the empty shelves. We were alone in the aisle.

Is it upsetting for you to see this? I asked.

No…but what’s with all the panic about buying toilet paper?

I think people are worried about being quarantined. A friend of a friend of mine bought 120 rolls. For just herself.

That’s BS. All you need is enough for 14 days. But…he glanced at the empty shelves again…what if you ran out…

Well, there’s always napkins. I pointed to the few remaining packages of dinner napkins.

He nods. True.

There’s also no chicken left, I added. Shifting to perhaps a more important priority when stocking up for survival while stuck at home. If, of course, you are fortunate enough to have a home. And enough money to buy food…never mind extra food.

He nodded…No hamburger either! Ridiculous.

Shaking his head, he announced…Well…ya know…I really like guns. And people don’t like that I keep so many extra boxes of ammo stocked in my house. But I don’t care what they think.

Ahh…well we all do what we gotta do I guess.

Yes we do.

He began pushing his cart away to finish shopping.

Have a good day!

You too!

Hand sanitizer. Toilet paper. Paper towels. Tissues. Guns. Ammunition. We all are trying to prepare for an unseen enemy in our own ways.

The Berlin Wall…East Germany…who knew.

no chicken
No Chicken

Stay safe everyone.

 

Morning Moments

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #87: Morning

What do mornings mean to you?

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My soul never thinks of beginning to wake up for other people till lunch-time, and never does so completely till it has been taken out of doors and aired in the sunshine. Who can begin conventional amiability the first thing in the morning? It is the hour of savage instincts and natural tendencies

Countess Van Arnim

Amen!

There’s a reason I have no photographs of sunrises. I am still asleep – or not yet fully conscious – that early in the day. My mornings need to evolve. I shift into fully awake mode after drinking an oversize mug of coffee. Plus finishing breakfast and the morning newspaper’s mix of news…both happy and not.

Empty nest retirement definitely has its pluses.

When I was growing up, however, my weekdays began at high speed. School day mornings…a blur…

Get Ready For School Hurry Up You’ll Miss The Bus! Finish your breakfast! Come Back You Forgot Your Lunch! Hurry! The Bus Is Coming! The Bus Is Coming!

Childhood weekends – thankfully – were a different story…

Early on a Saturday morning…the year I was 9: my 7 ½ year old sister, 6 year old brother and I would tiptoe down the hall of our small ranch style home. Careful not to disturb our sleeping parents.

If our 2+ year old baby sister was awake and willing to be quiet, she joined us.

SHHHHH!

A carpeted hallway covered the short distance from our bedrooms to the living/dining room. After just a few quick trips we had gathered all the toys we needed. Since the black & white television was in my parents’ room at the time, we were on our own to entertain ourselves.

And entertain we did.

The Barbies – (with friend Midge) – strutted around straight legged showing off their tiny don’t-step-on-them-with-your-bare-feet shoes and stretchy outfits. Ken made an appearance, but usually as an afterthought. My sister’s pink Barbie car transported B&K in a circular route under the dining room table…often without their clothes on. Sometimes Ken’s arm was removed and inserted in his torso backwards. Creativity on the loose. I’ll admit those adventures were mostly my idea. My sister loved Barbie like crazy, but I was quickly bored. Hence the unusual Saturday morning escapades. Which we all considered quite clever and hysterical.

My brother brought to the excitement an assortment of small green plastic army men, a GI Joe and an array of stuffed animals – many based on cartoon characters. Yogi Bear. Huckleberry Hound. Barney Rubble. Bugs Bunny – with a string…which when pulled…gave voice to What’s Up Doc?

Despite the differences in size and species, plush bunnies & bears interacted with dolls without a single problem. In whispers and hushed tones. Barbie to Yogi: Where’s the pic-a-nic basket?. Bugs to Ken: Got any carrots?. And so on.

Miraculously the 3 (or 4) of us played seamlessly together during those early childhood mornings. We didn’t argue. Or poke each other. We took turns. It was quite remarkable. And unusual.

Our common goal: Don’t wake up mommy and daddy! 

Those Saturday hours with my sisters and brother are precious in memory. They represent moments of our best times together.

Reality and its rivalries shifted back to normal when my parents woke up. And the day started for real.

Until the next weekend…when the crowd gathered once again.

saturday morning 1963
Saturday Morning – circa 1963

Clichéd

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #86: Cliché

Those pesky clichés pop up everywhere. This week let’s have fun with them.

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Not all clichés make sense to me…

 

milk

 

Don’t cry over spilled milk comes to mind…

I never believed that one, as my mother always cried over the spilling of beverages of any kind – especially milk – when I was a kid. Fit to be tied, she’d start freaking out and crying if one of her children reached thoughtlessly for the salt shaker and accidentally knocked over his or her cup. She’d have a cow as milk soaked the tablecloth and puddled on the floor.

Plain and simple…I grew up believing milk spilling was a major personal flaw deserving of tearful high drama.

Take it from me…crying over spilled milk happens more often than you think. Rest assured…that cliché does not always ring true.

The calm before the storm? – right before the milk spilled. That one makes sense. Mealtime with my siblings was usually giggly and spirited, but calm…ish.

On the other hand

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

And hopefully…time heals all wounds…

Or perhaps…laughter IS the best medicine.

To help you live happily ever after…

One day at a time.

And now…to circle back

Be careful with that glass of milk…

Better safe than sorry.

High Chair 1
Two Peas in a Pod

 

Two years later…

The most extraordinary thing about writing is that when you’ve struck the right vein, tiredness goes. It must be an effort, thinking wrong.

Virginia Woolf

 

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Desk View
February 26, 2020

Two years ago today I started posting on oneletterup.com. At first I just “practiced” and kept the blog private, as I built up courage to go public 2 months later on April 15. I began with my adventures in moving. The empty nest. Stories from childhood.

I had always been a “writer” since I first took pencil to paper in a diary at the age of 9. I put the word writer in quotes because I was in awe of real writers who crafted stories that transported me to exciting places. Writers of actual books! How could I call myself a writer too? A real writer. I could not possibly be in that league.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help myself. I wrote letters. Cards. Notes. I kept journals. I took a writing class in college. Joined local writing groups. Attended a week long writing symposium at a university in 2007. I wrote story after story about my children’s childhood moments. When the details were fresh in my mind…I couldn’t help it…I just had to record the sweet magic I witnessed. I put together memory books and stories for family. In the 1990s I submitted stories to magazines. A few held on to them…we’ll see if we have a need for this…but ultimately no publication.

There was never enough time to make writing a top priority. Without feeling guilty that there were more important things I should be doing.

Until my husband and I moved from our house to this condo. Until my children were grown and independent. Until I retired from my consultant job in dietetics.

Until I had a room of my own.

Two years ago, I took the plunge and thought…why not? After all, I wasn’t getting any younger…or healthier.

A blog would be a place to write what I wanted. Try to ignore the inner critic. And see what happens.

I discovered the creative fun of writing challenges, photography challenges…and what has turned out to be the best part…

…Meeting and interacting with other bloggers. It is like being in a virtual writing (and photography!) group. I’ve learned so much from all of you.

My mission in February 2018 was to start writing and not look back.

So far…mission accomplished!

A big thank you to all my blogging friends for your support and encouragement,
one letter Up
(aka Andrea 🙂)

~~~

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #85: Mission

Sunny Day

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #84: Sun

Let’s evoke the power of the sun this week, with images, poems, and stories to warm us up.

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It’s warmer here Mom, my daughter informed me last week.

I was preparing to visit her & her family in Washington DC to babysit my 3 ½ year old grandson for 3 days of his pre-K school vacation.

I interpreted that to mean Spring warmth. Big mistake. It was still too cold…for me. I did not pack accordingly. Obviously too much wishful thinking.

I arrived on Tuesday to temps in the 40s, but with little or no sun.  Which continued into Wednesday, along with a cold biting wind that slowly but surely froze my hands and ears walking with this very active little boy…5 blocks to the library for story time. Next on to the park to climb, slide and run around (him not me) on Wednesday and again on Thursday. The grey day cold seeped in deeper as I had to retrace our steps to get on the right street (he redirected me). Five blocks turned into six…seven….

What is it about a cloudy cold day that can drain your energy more than usual? Even when you are doing exciting things like walking down the street hand in hand with a conversational little boy…following an orange garbage truck to watch the stopping and emptying of trash cans.

Or…Waiting and observing and discussing why 3 workers across the street are just standing around an open manhole cover clearly marked with caution tape…
Grandma what are they doing?
Waiting to see what happens next.
Grandma why are they doing nothing?

The temperature feels colder under a cloudy sky when you stop at every alley to watch for cars or trucks or whatever may come zooming out. Or walk the wrong way…twice…
Grandma that’s the coffee shop! We have to go that way over there!

I have no sense of direction – I freely admit that – but my brain was also frozen. That’s my excuse this week. As well as not being properly dressed for walking the streets of DC in February. My grandson remained unfazed by the cold and our adventurous routes around the neighborhood.

The overcast skies continued…until yesterday…

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What a difference that sun can make.

back yard sun

We played closer to home during my last day of Grandma time.

It felt just a bit warmer…

scooter

I love sunny days.

Whispering Wind

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #82: whisper

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whisper sunset

 

Whispering wind came uninvited.

This lyric popped into my head the moment I saw V.J.’s challenge topic this week. And there it remained. No matter what I did.

The first line from a song almost 50 years old.

A song I discovered as a teenager.

But should I use it for this challenge? Surely there are other more relevant options…

I could write about the behind-my-back whispering I endured as an awkward too-tall glasses-wearing 12 year old trying to fit in with the cool kids. While pretending everything was fine. And holding back the tears.

Or, at home, how whispering meant something was off…not as it should be. Somehow…tilted. One more secret to swallow. Remember. Always on alert. My stomach in knots.

Don’t tell your sister. Don’t tell your grandparents. Don’t tell your father.

Just plain don’t tell. What will people say?

Or else.

There are no witnesses to a whisper.

So…whisper…not a comfortable topic to revisit. As it led to secrets and shaming and being left out. No need to relive that.

There it was again…whispering wind

Here’s the thing…I’ve finally learned to honor the flashing signs that appear in my head.

So here goes…

The song in question was written by Carole King and is included on her 1971 album “Music” – the album that followed my all time favorite “Tapestry.”

 

Song of Long Ago
Words and Music by Carole King

Whispering wind came uninvited
Looking for somewhere else to go
Here is a lamp I’ve left unlighted
Aren’t you someone I should know?

Memory’s flame is soon ignited
Lighting my lamp with amber glow
Quietly friends are reunited
Singing a song of long ago, la la la

Cry, cry for someone
Who just can’t be happy
And be glad you can feel enough to cry

Younger than always, time descended
Bringing me brand new seeds to sow
Now that they’ve been a long time planted
What must I do to help them grow?

If it had been as I intended
I wouldn’t have the peace I know
Loving the people I’ve befriended
And singing the song of long ago, la la la

As it began, so I will end it
Singing a song of long ago
Loving the people I’ve befriended
And singing the song of long, long, long ago.

I hadn’t listened carefully to Song of Long Ago in many years…until now.

What a difference – in perspective – a lifetime can make…in the listening.

Whispering wind…as relevant as ever.

By the way…Happy Birthday to Carole King.

She will be 78 years old this Sunday, February 9th.